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UIKonf is an independent conference for serious iOS developers

Announcing UIKonf 2017

Sabine, Maxim and I took over the responsibility of organizing UIKonf from Chris, Peter and Matt late 2014. 2015 was the first UIKonf we organized and it was an amazing learning experience for all of us. Being first time organizers, we tried to stick to the original team’s playbook as much as we could. The only significant change we did was the introduction of the social events on the sunday before the conference. We can’t thank the UIKonf community enough for the trust you placed in us and made UIKonf 2015 a success.

UIKonf 2015 went by in an adrenaline induced blur and 2016 was the first time we had the slightest idea what we were doing. We took the feedback we received from the previous year to heart and revamped our double blind talk proposal system, doubled down on social events, tried to use them to raise some money for charity and last but not the least added live streaming and live captioning. To be honest, we were slightly worried if we’d sell any tickets at all if we live stream all talks but the UIKonf community proved our worries completely unfounded by buying all the tickets: UIKonf 2016 sold out about 2 months before the conference.

Which brings me to our biggest problem in the last two years: capacity. UIKonf called Heimathafen home since the beginning in 2013. Heimathafen is a great venue with its unique charm which contributed to UIKonf’s character but unfortunately it has very limited space surrounding the main conference hall, which was the limiting factor on how many people we could accommodate for UIKonf. We are fully aware that increasing the capacity of a conference like UIKonf runs the risk of diluting the friendly, open and inclusive spirit but we believe it is also important to make the event accessible to more people in order to increase diversity.

That’s why we have been talking to various venues in Berlin to get more space for new ideas and a more diverse group of great people. We quickly found out that as the event venues get bigger they tend become standard issue corporate event locations with the expected lack of charm and the very unreasonable increase in costs. However, we are extremely happy to report that our new location Kosmos Berlin hits a sweet spot: we are going to be able to realize new ideas and have more great people and hold UIKonf in a special location originally built in the 60’ies as a movie theater in the communist East Berlin.

We are very excited for UIKonf 2017, which also happens to be the fifth time UIKonf takes place, and all fired up to make UIKonf more open, more friendly, more accessible, more inclusive and more diverse.

The tickets are already available and include three upgrades for the social events, the welcome party and the unconference day for free. We also added a new option of spouse tickets: It is a 99€ upgrade to your ticket which entitles your significant other to have access to all UIKonf activities.

We’ll be announcing the details of our first speakers, the call for proposals process and further details soon…

Sky is Sponsoring UIKonf

One of the sponsors contributing to this year’s UIKonf is the media company Sky. As one of Europe’s biggest entertainment companies, Sky might not seem like the obvious candidate to be interested in a grass-roots, artisan iOS dev-fest like UIKonf. But unsurprisingly, technology is right at the heart of Sky’s business and mobile is at the front and center of how the company wishes to offer content, services and interact with its customers.

In fact, over the last 18 months Sky has been growing a brand new technology base in Leeds. It’s currently home to around 350 Developers, Designers, Analysts and Testers. Sky@LeedsDock has a strong Mobile Developer team of 40 plus engineers split roughly 50/50 across iOS and Android, working on a wide range of apps for exploring Sky’s Sports, Movies, News and Kids content as well as apps for managing your account and remote recording.

Entertainment and TV is a fast changing, competitive business and this makes for an exciting and diverse project landscape with new campaigns and products driving the need for constant innovation and new features.

As an iOS developer at Sky this translates into opportunities to work on greenfield app projects completely written in Swift (or Kotlin for Android) as well as contributing to established Objective-C products, many of which are incorporating Swift for new features and testing. Frequent change also means there is an ongoing need to experiment, explore and spike new features or APIs. Sky@LeedsDock is striving to nurture an environment for engineers that values community, collaboration, constant learning and sharing via internal and external open source.

Developing agile ways of working focused on learning is a key part of the culture that Sky@LeedsDock aims to build. Taking inspiration from the Spotify Tribe model, iOS developers work in largely autonomous, cross-functional, self-organising teams of 6-10 people including Analysts, Designers, Testers and Product Owners with end-to-end responsibility for the design and build of our apps. This team-level autonomy gives plenty of scope for selecting our own tech stack and dev tools, whilst a cross-team mobile engineering guild provides a broader forum in which to discuss and agree on best practice and alignment across multiple teams.

The Sky@LeedsDock model offers a lot of flexibility and this is reflected in our tech stack of Objective-C, Swift, ReactNative, Ruby, node, Elixir, Scala, Go, GraphQL, Calabash & CloudFoundry and in the range of dev tools teams use including GitHub, CircleCI, AppCode, RubyMine, Dash, Sketch and Slack.

Underpinning the flexibility and autonomy enjoyed by our iOS developers, Sky@LeedsDock offers a great location with exciting new working spaces, an inclusive and international team of colleagues and plenty of challenging projects. Please feel free to take a quick look at our current roles & opportunities to learn more.

Microsoft is Sponsoring UIKonf

We are very happy to have Microsoft amongst our list of sponsors. They prepared two workshops which will be held by Alexander Repty during our Unconference Day, Wednesday 25th May.

###Make your apps human - get hands on with Microsoft Cognitive Services

Learn how to use Microsoft’s vast array of online services to extend your application with magical capabilities.

With two different focused workshops - each 2,5 hours - we will give you the chance to get in-depth hands on experience with Microsoft Cognitive Services. Each workshop will cover a different set of services to get you familiar with the API usage and how you can enrich your apps with the possibilities they offer. After each workshop you will have coded a fully functional iOS app and used different Cognitive Service APIs.

Don’t worry, we will guide you through the whole process and guarantee you’ll have a lot of fun!

In the first workshop you will create “Tag&Tweet” with the help of the Computer Vision API and some knowledge around the basic iOS SDKs. We want to enable you to generate a detailed description for a given picture with the API and convert it to twitter tags - and post it to the twitterverse.

The second workshop will enable you to create “EmojiMe”. This app will convert your current mood, recognized from a selfie you just took, into an emoji with the help of the Emotions API.

Prerequisites: Bring your Mac along with the current version of Xcode (or the version you feel comfortable with). You should have a basic understanding of the iOS SDKs, the underlying coding patterns and networking as we will use different REST API calls. We will code the apps in Swift so you need to bring basic language understanding too.

Duration: approx. 2 x 2,5h

Fee: free :)

grandcentrix is Sponsoring UIKonf

Interview with Ralf Rottmann, Managing Partner of grandcentrix

grandcentrix is one of UIKonf’s Gold Sponsors this year.

In a nutshell, who is grandcentrix?

We are Germany’s largest system integrator focusing 100% on complex mobile solutions.

We consider us being a leader with regard to the quality of everything we do. Some would say, grandcentrix is an “App Agency”, though we are a bit reluctant using this term. Our roots are very clearly in engineering, not in advertising or marketing.

Obviously, user experience design and mobile development are a large part of our business. However, a significant revenue part comes from development and 24/7 operation of services. We self­host these platforms for our clients on our own, DIN ISO 27001 compliant infrastructure. This sets grandcentrix apart from the typical App Agency.

In essence, with our more than 70 full­time designers, coders, data center and performance marketing experts, we design, build and operate digital products.

Today, the majority of the end user touchpoints of those products are apps, but we are also working on conversational user interfaces, bots and exhaustively look into embedded software development, artificial intelligence and machine learning.

How do you find people to bring into your organization that truly care about the organization the way you do?

I think, this is the toughest challenge for anybody who tries to build a company.

Understanding, that this possibly is your single most important success factor – particularly if you start small – is the easy part. Every start­up advisor tells you so in the first five minutes of a conversation.

However, attracting and keeping the best of the best is hard. In fact, having the privilege to only work with some of the most brilliant talents in the market, was one of the driving forces for me to actually become a founder in the first place. At grandcentrix, we try hard to find projects, that are challenging in one way or the other.

Whether it’s apps that literally scale to millions of users, products that integrate deeply into proprietary hardware or solutions with very demanding security requirements. I believe, engineers love to solve problems, so we try to not engage in standard of­the­shelf productions.

You won’t find our teams working on boring mobile web portals, just to fulfill some billable hours business objective.

Some of our competitors claim to have build 800+ apps. To our team and myself, this would be a huge warning sign! For us it’s not about quantity or the number of yearly new names on our customer list. We always strive for best­in­class quality. I believe, that is the number one reason, why many of our clients are also market leaders in their respective industries – because we share the same vision what it takes, to create awesome digital products.

grandcentrix solely solves unique and highly challenging user experience and technology problems. That usually attracts brilliant minds. Some might be “misfits” if you look at them from a corporate perspective. We don’t care. We are truly proud of and love the team we were able to build over the past seven years.

Everyone, who wants to become part of the grandcentrix family, has to go through a formal assessment. Candidate presentations are open for all grandcentrix team members. It is them who make the final call, not management.

This has proven to be a very effective filter. It also is a fantastic chance for people who are interested in working for us, to get to know our team early on, before they decide to jump on board.

What are some of the biggest mistakes you’ve made?

I’d say the number one mistake we made is that we started too late with scaling out our organisation, establishing the hierarchies you need if you grow beyond “just having fun together and enjoying Club Mate in a coworking space”.

Start­ups have become sort of the new cool.

This is good on the one hand, because it encourages entrepreneurship, which I think is unfortunately fundamentally underrepresented in our German education system. (And I could spend hours discussing just that.)

On the other hand, being in the business of building digital products, I’ve seen way too many really inexperienced folks reading billion dollar Silicon Valley success stories, hooking up a single page parallax web page the next day and start feeling entrepreneur­ish.

This is perfectly fine, if you just have to take care for yourself, but it has nothing to do with being a successful founder. Success inevitably means, you’re willing to rapidly take responsibility for others (and their families).

For way too long, Martin Willnow (my co­founder) and I tried to keep grandcentrix sort of “hipster­lean” and “hierarchy­free”, because for some weird reason we thought, hierarchies were uncool. We had to learn the hard way, that professionals demand an extremely professional work environment, which sounds very logical looking back.

As a consequence, 18 months ago we established a Management Team. Thankfully, we were able to completely recruit it from some of the most loyal team members, who were already working for grandcentrix at that time.

So far, it had an extremely positive impact on all aspects of our operations and we should have done this way earlier.

Where do you see grandcentrix in five or ten years?

Honestly, thinking about the future of my company, I’m extremely relaxed.

First – even at the risk of sounding a bit arrogant – I fundamentally believe, that once you’ve managed to have some of the most awesome talents in the industry on your team, you’ll never run out of opportunities.

Second, as I said earlier: grandcentrix is all about designing and building digital products and reliably operating those at scale.

Some analysts believe, we might see apps becoming less important and eventually going away. Others bet everything on augmented and virtual reality. However, the one thing everybody unequivocally agrees upon is, that we will see an explosion of digital experiences for years to come, touching every aspect of our lives.

grandcentrix is uniquely positioned to help its clients to build products their customers love and enjoy.

We recently hired our first hardware electronics and embedded expert. You might wonder why should an “App Agency” do so? Well, turns out, that delivering awesome digital experiences no longer stops at the software and services layer.

More and more – and as the term “Internet of Things” somewhat implies – it’s also key to deeply understanding the “Things”­aspect of our digital lives, if you want to stay relevant beyond just the app hype.

Martin and I are committed to continue our investment to further establish grandcentrix’ pole position as a leading edge technology competence center. It’s a promise to our customers, that we will keep staying ahead of the market and to our team, that it’ll never get boring.

Any final remarks?

Sure. If you’re a UIKonf attendee, extremely good at what you’re doing and want to join forces, visit us at https://www.grandcentrix.net or ping me on Twitter (https://twitter.com/ralf). I’d love to chat with you!

About Ralf Rottmann

Ralf Rottmann is grandcentrix’ Managing Partner, technical brains, the driving force of innovation and a developer at heart. He has been heavily involved in building Internet of Things platforms and services for major international consumer brands and smart home vendors.

Ralf has decades of cutting-edge experience in the conception and development of enterprise software and in 2008 he successfully sold his prior company to Alcatel. At grandcentrix, Ralf takes care for maintaining the delicate balance between technology and strategy.

In 2010 Ralf was listed as one of Germany’s most successful tech entrepreneurs by the well-known German magazine WirtschaftsWoche.

To get in touch, follow Ralf on Twitter (https://twitter.com/ralf).

About grandcentrix

grandcentrix is widely considered the market leading system integrator for building complex digital products in the German-speaking area.

We offer product management consulting, concept development, interaction design, implementation, system integration and 24/7 ISO 27001 services operation. Customers with a mobile-first approach profit from our special product teams, which help accelerate time-to-market and deliver interims management services for key areas like product management and infrastructure operation.

grandcentrix has launched many x-large productions for renowned industry customers like AXA, Miele, Migros, RTL Media Group, Siedle, Bosch and many others.

Thinking in Swift

Understanding the Patterns of Programming in Swift

Instructor: Daniel Steinberg of dimsumthinking.com

Date: Saturday, May 21st

This fast-paced workshop shows you how to take advantage of Swift features to write more robust code that is easier to reason about. We’ll spend a good part of the day looking at functional programming and playing with map, filter, reduce, and flatmap but we will also create instances of classes, structs, and enums. We’ll explore how your iOS app architecture may change when you embrace idiomatic Swift.

One of the strengths of Swift is that it can borrow the best from a multitude of paradigms. We’ll look at how to successfully weave together OO and functional code into a readable and flexible architecture and focus on protocol oriented programming.

Prerequisites: We assume that you are an experienced programmer who has spent some time looking at Swift but you aren’t yet an expert in Swift. You understand most of the hows and whats of working with Swift and are looking for the whys and wheres. You need a Mac running Yosemite or El Capitan with the latest publicly shipping version of Xcode 7.x installed.

Duration: approx. 8h

Fee: 150 € - You don’t need a UIKonf ticket to attend this workshop.

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